It’s fair to assume that the idea of ‘a provisional licence or registration’ to practice as a pharmacist in the UK had not crossed the minds of the vast majority of the pre-registration pharmacist cohort or those involved in their training. However, this idea has quickly become a reality for many in the midst of this ongoing pandemic - with further details of the upcoming examination date still unknown.

After initially becoming aware of this change to our registration process, I did not feel apprehensive of this new role. My skills in procuring pharmaceutical care and applying my university learning into real-life practice had developed significantly during my pre-registration training year. I strongly believed that I and the rest of the provisional pharmacist cohort would not be provided this opportunity if we weren’t competent and suitably skilled to complete it to the standard expected by the General Pharmaceutical Council, patients and public.

My overall experiences of the provisional pharmacist registration process have been positive and I’ve been supported throughout by my pharmacy team in completing any of my remaining pre-registration training competencies standards.

Before attending my first shift at the community pharmacy, I felt it would be prudent to re-study the GPhC standards of pharmacy professionals and brainstorm ideas of how I could support my team through ensuring that these were maintained during my practice. With this understanding, I chose to introduce myself to the team as the provisional pharmacist, and provide summarised learning resources for different over-the-counter medicines to help improve their understanding.

In light of my good performance throughout the pre-registration year, both I and the superintendent pharmacist believed that I would be suitable to be the sole pharmacist at the community pharmacy site. He provided me his contact details in the instance that I required further support.

‘Stressful and frightening’

Within my day-to-day practice, I was able to actively exercise my management skills in supporting the organised and safe provision of high-quality healthcare to our local community. One way I achieved and maintained this was through the effective delegation of different tasks to staff members and ensuring I did not hastily complete patient queries.

But what I did not expect to encounter in my second week on the job was a GPhC inspection. Throughout my university studies, I had the pleasure of meeting many pharmacists in different sectors and it was clear that an inspection was viewed as being stressful and frightening by the majority.

In the morning of one of my weekday shifts, one of our dispensers informed me that someone had arrived to inspect the pharmacy and these were the exact feelings that raced through my mind. I started to feel more anxious as I approached to greet the inspector.  As a result of the Covid-19 restrictions in our area, the inspector requested that I gathered the necessary documentation required for the inspection and kindly told me to remain calm.

While the inspector reviewed the different records kept in the pharmacy, I tried my best to maintain a low stress level and resume normal practice in continuing with my day-to-day tasks.  This was followed with a discussion between myself and the inspector which surrounded many topics including: my experiences of this new role, my support network and the procedures that I would follow if I required any support during my role.

After initial reflection of this event, I realised that I hadn’t called my support network for further assistance during the inspection - I didn’t feel I needed to, I had an amazing pharmacy team around me and years of experience and training.

‘Resolving prescription errors’

Inspection aside (and passed!), a significant portion of my days have involved identifying and resolving numerous errors on prescriptions, with the majority surrounding: inappropriate drug choice, dosage instructions and incomplete prescriptions details rendering them legally invalid.

One notable experience was a prescription requesting the provision of a vasodilator medication for a patient that was not familiar to the pharmacy. Following further investigation and discussion with the patient, I was doubtful that the prescribing doctor had followed the recommended guidance for the treatment of hypertension.

As I felt unsure of the clinical appropriateness of this medication for this patient, I chose to contact my supporting pharmacist who agreed that my concern was valid and advised me to contact the patient’s prescriber. Following my discussion with the prescribing general practitioner, it became clear that the patient was already stabilised on this drug therapy for a prolonged period and it was decided that this should be continued until their next review.

With this information, I was able to explain my actions to the patient who expressed his appreciation through understanding that the checks made were in his best interests.

I am sure that more challenges will lie ahead as the country faces a second wave of Covid-19, but I feel glad that I entered my role as a provision pharmacist with optimism to learn and develop.  This has supported me to maximise both my growth and enjoyment in this new chapter of my career.